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We live in the age of the #metoo campaign, with countless men, women and celebrities showing support for equality for women. In-fact it seems everyone wants to say they stand for equality, but if we are to believe so many people support it, why in a recent survey of 12,000 people from 32 countries, did less than a third of women and only 17% of men identify as feminists *1 and why do I still hear people use the word ‘feminism’ as an insult? “You’re such a feminist!” or “What are you, a feminist?” are comments heard regularly in my school when the slightest detection of sympathy for women is heard. Speaking publicly in support of feminism can be a controversial thing to do; often met with derision and insults from both males and females. But why should it be so controversial? A quick search of feminism turns up several definitions and reading through we can start to see where it begins to go wrong. The ‘Urban Dictionary’ definition is: “Feminism used to be about women getting the same rights as men, such as the right to vote and equal pay at work. Now feminism is a movement full of women who seem to think that their ability to push a baby out of their vagina entitles them to bigger and better everything” *2 . Feminism is defined more helpfully in the ‘Oxford Dictionary’ as: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” *3 . I’m not suggesting most people will be searching the ‘Urban Dictionary’ for their definitions but certainly some young people might; and from there you can begin to see how the original definition has become blurred.
So, what is feminism? Well let’s be clear on what it’s not; it’s not “a movement full of women who seem to think that their ability to push a baby out of their vagina entitles them to bigger and better everything” (another helpful definition from urban dictionary) or that we are demanding more money and better jobs than men. It’s not a group created for dominance over men by radical, men-hating lesbians. Nor is it a Nazi movement; despite the common use of the insulting term; ‘feminazi’. Nazism is rightly condemned in all dictionary definitions; so why should it be associated with a movement that seeks to bring equality for all?
Perhaps we need to re-examine what feminism is; it’s about empowering each other and fighting for equality; for you, me, everybody; creating a voice for any marginalised group. It’s about fighting to raise awareness for the gaps in equality, such as in pay and jobs. This is everybody standing behind each other, holding each other’s hands and telling the world shocking stories of what they went through because of this gender bias. This is a positive movement to try to influence society’s views and opinions on women; to educate the younger generations on equality, so together they can grow up in an equal place and pass that on to their children.
But why are young teenagers reluctant to vocalise their positive opinions on this movement? Confidence. There is so much stigma surrounding feminism in schools, teenage boys often take a negative stance on the matter and are most likely to use the term as an insult. This can make many of us feel like it’s a bad thing to support; we might feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit we agree with feminist values, making us reluctant to speak up in support. Without this vocal support many of us stay quiet fearing judgement, and this helps the vocalised negative opinions become normalised.
So, what can we do to do change this? Let’s start in primary schools, teaching young children that gender is not a barrier to anything. That from a young age nobody should be embarrassed of their gender or feel confined by it. Nor should they have to grow up in an environment where gender is used as an insult. We can all make changes in small ways; stop using gender stereotypes such as “boys will be boys” or “you throw like a girl”, have confidence in calling it out when we hear it. Letting our positive voices be heard to
empower those that may be shy, so we know that we are not alone in holding these values. To educate those who believe feminism’s goals are unrealistic or discriminatory. To take responsibility, as a society, to ensure that the next generation is the first equal one for everybody.
To conclude, feminism is vital for young people all over the world to grow up in a more equal world and to maybe even help achieve a UN global goal: gender equality. But further education and lots of emphasis on its actual aims rather than the myths surrounding it are needed. 100 years on from the suffragette movement, you should not still be mocked for asking for equality.
Welcome to the Stand Up! platform for young people's voices from across the Scottish Highlands. This site showcases quality pieces of writing on topics relating to gender-based violence from passionate young writers who want to get their voices heard.